The group said the industry had proved its resilience in a thoroughly hostile context in 2003.
While war in Iraq and the epidemic of the flu-like SARS disease in Asia had hurt tourism, the backdrop improved later in the year and growth figures were positive for the second half. The number of tourists visiting Europe, which has a 57.8 percent share of global tourism, stayed flat on the year before, the organisation said.
In Asia, with a 17.2 percent market share, that number fell 9.3 percent and in the Americas, which have a 16.2 percent share, it fell 2.1 percent.
Africa saw a 5 percent rise and the Middle East enjoyed an increase of 10.3 percent as residents in the region chose to take their holidays closer to home. France remained the world's top tourist destination, followed by Spain, in terms of visitor numbers.
The United States was the top earner from tourism, also followed by Spain. The organisation said international visits in 2002 had risen 2.7 percent to more than 700 million.
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